A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scribbling in the margins (corrected)

This winter I was delighted to find that the British Library had put Lady Jane Grey's personal psalter prayerbook online: Harley 2342. She was executed, after spending 10 days as queen of England, in a power struggle after King Edward VI's death and before Mary I took the throne.

It's a beautiful small psalter prayerbook, written in English - everyone in England is now officially Protestant so they can read their Bibles and prayers in English. Each page is just 15cm high, so about A6 (or fold a 8.5x11" page in quarters, and you'll have an idea of the page size). I'm not a miniaturist, but I do think small is beautiful, and enjoy doing small scrolls.

It's in slightly rough condition - the shell gold is wearing off and there's only a few decorated initials and some line fillers. The hand is a beautiful clear secretary hand, that manages to look big and easy to read, even when you know the lines are only 1/4" high.

The nifty part for me, though, is that Jane wrote across the bottom of several pages - looks like a note to her jailer in the Tower, before she gave the book to him. It goes from 74v - 80r.

She is close in age to Elizabeth I, and would have had a similar 'Renaissance' education, and her hand is very clearly Italic in style, similar to Elizabeth's own hand.

Inscription by Lady Jane Grey

We sometimes think that hands follow each other in sequence, with the old style coming to a screeching halt somehow when a new one arrives.

This is a great illustration that more than one style can share the same place in time; that the noble youth were being taught the newfangled style from Italy, though the secretary bookhand was still in style. BUT: the book decoration is very much 'Renaissance' with the big initials looking three-dimensional and decorated after the Italian style.

ETA: a psalter is a book of the Psalms, which is one of the books of the Bible. This book is actually not psalms from the Bible but devotional prayers in English, written for the new audience of English Christians who followed the 'reforms' of Henry VIII rather than the 'old church'. Sorry for that confusion!

1 comment:

Merlyn said...

This is lovely! Thank you SO much for sharing!